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Sport England and Redbridge Council clash over plans to build on Newbury Park football pitches

PUBLISHED: 13:58 13 June 2017 | UPDATED: 14:02 13 June 2017

Ford Sports Ground in Newbury Park would be massively reduced in size under proposals put forward in the Redbridge Council Local Plan.

Ford Sports Ground in Newbury Park would be massively reduced in size under proposals put forward in the Redbridge Council Local Plan.

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Controversial plans to build 850 homes on playing fields in Newbury Park will see seven football pitches moved more than two miles away, a planning inspector heard today.

Ford Sports Ground in Aldborough Road South currently offers nine football pitches – one of which is floodlit – as well as three cricket squares and a number of other sports facilities.

But a meeting reviewing Redbridge Council’s Local Plan – the document laying out local plans to provide housing until 2030 – heard that around 850 homes would be built on the land, which would only retain enough space for two football pitches and one cricket square.

A number of replacement pitches would then be created in the Goodmayes Park extension, more than two miles away.

But one Newbury Park resident at the meeting claimed he would not be able to walk the extra distance to the proposed new pitches, and said he and other residents would have to drive there, to the detriment of the environment.

Jayme McArthur, representing Ford, who own the land, said the motor company was now looking at expanding other sports pitches it owns in Basildon to continue providing its employees with sports facilities and that the Newbury Park site was surplus to requirements.

But Redbridge Council admitted it had factored the privately owned pitches into its calculations concerning the number of sports pitches in the borough.

Mark Furnish, of Sport England, told the inspector the organisation was concerned about Redbridge Council’s overall approach to replacing sports spaces in the borough.

He argued that a distinction had not been made between playing fields and sports pitches and that the overall strategic consequences of the plan had not been considered.

Mr Furnish also said there had not been adequate consultation with current users and raised concerns over the quality of any new pitches.

“Obviously the newly proposed site is not next to the old site, and I understand that transport links in Redbridge are very good but having said that, they need to understand the clubs that currently use the site and how the change is going to affect them as well.

“Without any consultation with the clubs and their national governing bodies it is hard for anyone to answer that question.”

Douglas Edwards QC, representing Redbridge Council, branded Sport England’s approach “environmentally extreme and totally illogical”.

He said: “The test that has to be applied is the loss of the existing playing fields and sports grounds and then make a consideration as to whether that loss can be addressed by equivalent provision, in both quality and quantity, elsewhere.

“It is perfectly clear in our plan that yes, that loss has been addressed and it can be met by the enhancement of either underused or redundant playing fields elsewhere.”

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